There is a peculiar paradox that I am feeling at the moment, with finding the balance between what sometimes feels like Groundhog Day and ensuring we keep moving forward, between the operational decisions of providing continuity of learning remotely with blue sky strategic future thinking. Often in leadership formation, this tension is referred to as finding the balance between spending time on the ‘dance floor’ and time on the ‘balcony’.

One of the spaces that keeps me on the ‘balcony’ is the work with our College Stewardship Council, who act as an advisory body to the Principal. A member of the Kildare Education Ministries’ Board is also a member of our Stewardship Council. It has been exciting to welcome two new members to the Stewardship Council this year – Bridey Sanders and Clare Barrett. Both have had past connections with either Clonard or the work of the Brigidine Sisters and bring a wealth of experience and a great enthusiasm for their work with the Stewardship Council.

Our annual action plan for 2020 outlined the strategic intention of commencing a new Master Planning process for the College. It has been a priority for our Stewardship Council we move forward with this process despite the challenges that COVID19 has presented to us. Recently, CHT Architects were appointed to develop the new Master Plan with the College, following a comprehensive selection process. Representatives from CHT visited the College this week to undertake a site visit and commence the process of consultation and development of an educational and functional brief. Using this brief, they will establish a series of options from which the preferred future Master Plan will be selected. A Project Control Group (PCG) has been formed, chaired by Helen Wood, our Business Manager. Marcus Dripps, member of our Stewardship Council and a current parent of the College is also a member of the PCG. The PCG also consists of staff and will have student voice as required. 

The College is currently working with CHT to ascertain the most effective ways to harness feedback from students, staff and families which will most likely include a survey and some online small group forums. Using this data, the key themes to inform the educational and functional brief will be distilled. The first impressions of CHT were that the campus had a wonderful feel with a lot of potential. Capturing and maintaining our culture and the essence of who we are will be foundational to the success of this project.

There has been an increase in the research and evidence base around learning environments and their impact on student outcomes and quality teaching over the past 3-5 years. A significant body of this research has come from work conducted by the University of Melbourne. Our PCG and Leadership Team will be intentional in understanding the key learnings from this research to inform our decision making. As I shared with staff at our staff meeting this week, this is the opportunity for us to be ensuring we have our built environment reflecting how we understand our Catholic identity, approach to learning and wellbeing and our social use of spaces. I see this process as an opportunity to further educate our community about what the current research and thinking is telling us about the future of education and work. 

We have to consider how this pandemic and the experience of remote learning has disrupted our mental models of what ‘traditional’ schooling can be. Many of our young people who are moving into tertiary studies may never set foot on campus, undertaking their degrees in a fully online environment. What are the implications of this for us and our students as we prepare them to transition from school into further education or work? We anticipate that it will take us until the end of the year to have a conceptual understanding of our new Master Plan and the beginnings of the design for the first stage. Please ensure you take the time to be involved as the opportunities present themselves. It is an exciting time to undertake this work as a community.

Blessings Luci